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Horizontal Directional Drilling is a trenchless technology that makes use of surface-launched equipment to drill underground horizontally on a predefined path and install pipes, conduits, and cables. It is used in several industries, such as telecommunications, utilities, and in areas with limited space, or where traditional excavations are too hazardous (i.e., under lakes and rivers). Directional drilling is commonly used for installations beneath waterways, highways, railroads, and other environmentally sensitive areas. 

Equipment used

  • A directional drill with electronics, as supplied by directional drilling companies
  • A water truck
  • A support truck
  • A mini excavator
  • A pipe trailer

The drill crew

The crew is made up of people who are on the same page regarding drilling responsibly and safely. The drill operator controls the directional driller but relies on the tracker for effective manoeuvring around obstacles. The tracker tracks the prescribed path using electronics and then provides the navigation instruction to the operator to keep him out of harm. Lastly, the labourer acts as a traffic controller and unblocks the pathway


  • The site condition is assessed to determine the size rig needed to do the job. The relevant parties are called, such as property owners, to ask about existing utilities. Often, privately owned utilities are not marked. 
  • The machinery is visually inspected for leaks, loose fittings, or hardware.
  • Use potholing to verify utility lines before drilling. Potholes are vertical holes dug using a vacuum excavator along the prescribed path to check for utility lines
  • Check for structures such as gas meters and manhole cover, which may indicate an underground utility line


The horizontal directional drilling process is simple. Installing a pipeline crossing consists of three necessary steps namely, the pilot hole, hole opening, and pullback. 

  • The first step begins with the pilot hole being drilled along a path with pre-determined entry and exit points. The collaboration between the operator and the tracker is vital to make sure the predetermined path is followed. 
  • The second step consists of one or more hole-opening passes. There are two types of tools that enlarge the pilot hole – fly cutters and rock hole opening tools. Fly cutters are used for most soil formations, while rock hole opening tools are used for very dense soil and rock formations. Either tool is used to widen the pilot hole to the desired diameter, conducive to the pipeline’s installation.
  • The third step of the horizontal directional drilling process is the most critical. In this step, the pipeline is pulled back into the enlarged hole very carefully to prevent the pipe from getting damaged in the process. The completion of this step completes the installation. 

Striking a natural gas line, any time during the process can lead to a gas leak or gas build-up. The leakage of gas and its build-up can cause explosion and fire with trapped air. To prevent mishaps, drill crews are duly trained and the pre-checks are religiously followed. 

Installing pipes and other conduits are risky even to skilled workers as accidents may arise. For your installation needs, make sure you contact only directional drilling companies with a proven track record.